Thursday, January 4, 2018

Doug DeMuro Doesn't Like the Mitsubishi Mirage. We Do. Here's Why.

Doug DeMuro Mitsubishi Mirage
Doug DeMuro on why the Mitsubishi Mirage is the worst new car on sale today. 
Maybe you've seen the 22 minute video that Doug DeMuro made about the Mitsubishi Mirage and why he says it's "the worst new car on sale." Hey, we're all entitled to our opinions, right? Personally, I found the video tedious to watch as Doug goes into infinitesimal detail about how cheap the car is, down to the color on the interior door lock mechanism. He makes more noise about the car's shortcomings than the the Mirage's CVT at full throttle. Doug can have his opinions, and I'm OK with that—really I am. However, I'd like to point a few things out.

We own a 2017 Mitsubishi Mirage ES hatchback, and have since September of '17. We didn't have to buy a Mirage, we chose to buy a Mirage. We wanted a basic commuter that was frugal and simple. We considered another Yaris, but we couldn't get a five-door with a manual transmission. Plus, the Mirage's price—$9,600 out the door, less expensive than many used Mirages—was too low to pass up. By the way, we'd reviewed both the hatchback and G4 variants, so we knew what we were getting into. And just to point something out: The '17 Mirages have a host of improvements over the earlier versions, such as the one Doug features.


Our 2017 Mitsubishi Mirage SE

This just in: The Mirage is an inexpensive car and engineered to a price point. In other news, water wet, fire hot, snake bad. More at 11:00. You're going to get cost-cutting at Mirage prices (or Versa prices, or Yaris prices, etc., etc.). Doug packed a lot of nitpick criticism into his 22+ minute screed. But many of these cost-cutting measures would be totally oblivious to many buyers unless someone decided to specifically call them out. (I'm looking at you, Doug ...)

For example, he points out there isn't a red/orange indicator on the door locks like other cars. I don't know about you, but I can surely figure out if the door is locked without them. Why spend the money? He also points out that Mitsubishi doesn't cover the seat rails like other manufacturers. I'm sure Mitsubishi must get complaints all the time about this. The list goes on and on.

Maybe it's about expectations. We expected the Mirage to have shortcomings compared to a Honda Fit ($16,190), for example. I'm guessing most people shopping for a brand-new $10,000 car probably do, too. Our expectation was for an inexpensive, reliable, no-frills commuter that would deliver good fuel economy and be inexpensive to own and operate. So far that's exactly what it does. Expectations met—and exceeded in some aspects. The ride, for example, is way better than we thought it'd be.

The Mirage isn't a lot of things, however.

It's not a fast car.
It's not a race car.
It's not a large car.
It's not a refined car.

And guess what? We knew that before we bought it. However, like so many other vehicles out there, there are improvements that can be made via the aftermarket to make this little runabout more fun and more like a go kart than a runabout. And who doesn't like go karts? (ANSWER: Terrorists, that's who. Terrorists don't like go karts.)

But let's rein it in a bit here. This is an inexpensive car and is engineered and built at a price point. It's not a modern BMW. But for less than $10,000 we got a car equipped with Bluetooth, A/C, power windows, power locks, keyless entry, hill hold, a bunch of airbags, ABS brakes, USB and auxiliary jacks, and a trip computer. It has a 10 year, 100,000 mile powertrain warranty; a 5 year, 60,000 bumper-to-bumper warranty; and a 7 year, 100,000 mile anti-corrosion warranty. Plus it gets great fuel economy (nearly 50 MPG on the way from Portland to Vancouver, B.C.) No, it's not a driver's car like our previous WRX, a VW Golf, or a Fiesta ST. But look at the price variance between these and a Mirage. Yeah, yeah, we could've bought a used something or other that's more of an "enthusiast" vehicle. But for us, we enjoy the underdog. We enjoy making something that isn't typically looked as cool or sporty and turning it into something unique. So far, even in stock form, we really like it. And we're not the only ones.


2017 Mitsubishi Mirage GT

In the U.S., Mitsubishi sold 22,386 Mirages in 2017—that's more units than many of its competitors. For comparison, it outsold the Kia Rio (16,760 units). It outsold the Toyota Yaris liftback by nearly a 3:1 margin (8,653 units). It nearly tied Chevrolet's Spark sales (22,589), and sold more units than the Fiat 500, 500L, 500X combined (22,014 combined units). In fact, it was one of the few cars (and by cars I mean not crossovers, trucks, or SUVs) that had growth in 2017. So, for being the worst car on sale in America, people are buying them. (Did you know the Mirage had the highest subcompact owner loyalty in 2016 according to IHS Automotive?)

By the way, we realize 22,386 units isn't a megaton of cars, but the subcompact segment has few high-volume cars. The Nissan Versa is an exception (106,772 units in '17).


2017 Mitsubishi Mirage ES

I'm not going to pretend the Mirage is something it isn't, however. It is quirky. It's noisy and Spartan. It's not for everyone. And yes, it's the most basic car on the market. But basic doesn't necessarily mean the worst. It's all how you look at it.

I love the fact this car is so simple. Plus, simple often means fewer things will go wrong. Its 1.2-liter three-cylinder engine is actually really neat to me. Noisy, but neat. Some cost-cutting bits are actually quite innovative, too. For example, the rear cargo cover only has one string attached to the hatchback to lift it up instead of two. Why would you need two if one does the trick? Or, the fuel door: There's a little hook to hold the tether on the cap vs. a separate steel stamping to hold the entire cap. Smart. Simple. Cost-effective. Sure, call it cheap. Call it cutting corners. I call it frugal and smart. Would you can criticize IKEA for having assemble-it-yourself particleboard furniture that assembles with one wrench? (Yes, I suppose you might if you were expecting high-end solid wood furniture. But again, expectations.) It's done at a cost, but done smartly. I'd argue the Mirage is like that.

Subcompact Culture was started 10 years ago (GASP!) on the premise that there are people out there who prefer to drive smaller cars, and that includes cheaper and simpler cars, as well. We love the opportunity to take something basic and make into something better, so stay tuned for updates on our '17 Mirage. We have plans.


Anonymous said...

The Mirage, Versa Note, Spark, Yaris and 500 are all in the same realm of inexpensive fuel misers. As a daily driver, these make great choices, as the savings don't simply stop at fuel consumption. Smaller, lightweight cars like these run through tires and brakes less often, and parts are typically cheaper. Suspension components also last longer. Reasonably, a car like this used primarily in the city won't really need a 0-60 of 6 seconds or less; it's just not necessary. As a "fun" car, these may not fit the bill for most people, but as a small city runabout for daily use, they are pretty good deals.

JR said...

Nice post. I bought the 15 (in 2016) and for me it is going to come down to whether the cost cutting is just giving me a basic car or will it show up in reliability. I have loved driving and owning my Mirage so far. It is exactly what I purchased -> basic transportation for mostly non highway driving. In fact I have grown to enjoy the car more with time. Fingers crossed, but so far issue free.

Anonymous said...

new economy car materials are built flimsier than say 20 years ago. loading them with features while pricing them at year 2000 prices usually means shortcuts in the basic structure and materials. time will tell. same observation mafe for appliances from 20 years ago vs. new ones that use a lot of unreliable electronic components.

Kitty said...

I watched Doug's entire video. I've also read reviews and test driven Mirage hatchbacks since they were first introduced in the US. If I needed a replacement vehicle (I don't), a Mirage hatchback would be at the top of my very short list. I've been buying, owning, and driving cars like the Mirage for the last 40 years - and enjoying the simplicity and frugality of each and every one. First a VW Rabbit (base, hatchback, MT, no air), then a Honda Accord MT, then a Plymouth Horizon AT, then a Chevy Cavalier (my least favorite of them all by far), then a base Geo Metro hatchback (3 cylinder, MT, no AC or anything else - my most favorite of them all by far), and for the last 11 years so far a base Toyota Yaris hatchback AT. Call me crazy, but if I won the lottery I would have made and buy a restomodded Geo Metro hatchback. I must be crazy - but I enjoy city cars.

Anonymous said...

I have rented and taken long trips in every econocar made from 2014 till now. I decided on a Mirage because it fulfilled the role of econocar perfectly. Great mileage, very good ride, tons of creature comforts, A/C, power everything and heated seats. If I was looking for anything specific, ie., performance, I would have bought a small car that rips like the Fiesta ST, if I had wanted more comfort I would have opted for a Mercedes 200. There isn't another car anywhere, at any price, that is better at being a basic econocar than a Mirage.

Anonymous said...

Great post. I got about halfway through DeMuro's video before hitting the back key. Last year I test drove four micro-to-city car class contenders here in the Aussie market: Picanto, Mirage, Yaris and Ignis. All with either traditional auto or CVT as opposed to manual transmissions. I've driven manuals all my life but increasing traffic congestion where I live made the prospect of 20,000 very slow kms per year rather unappealing. And the Mirage was my favourite of the four in auto / CVT guise, along with the Picanto. The only reason I went with the Picanto was because the parking space I had was incredibly restrictive (the Mirage is about 20 cm longer and a bit wider too) and the 7-year Kia warranty. But as for the actual driving experience - you know, not trying to set speed records and just going about my normal sedate business on a public road - the Mirage was actually my favourite of the four in terms of how it drove (and it was the most comfortable too). Perhaps I should point out that yes, I do like the Yaris the most, but only in its manual 1.5 litre incarnation - and by then you are in a totally different price class here in Australia.

In actual fact, given the Picanto was bought another family member, I will very likely be getting a CVT Mirage for myself during 2018. I would go so far as to say the only thing I hold against the little Mitsubishi is that the base model lacks a cruise control. If Mitsubishi could include that in an update it would be wonderful.

Danf said...

Heres my story...Im a 50 year old male living in upstate NY. I was raised to hate any vehicle that wasnt made here in the good ol USA. Fast forward all these years later and after owning many old American made cars from the late 1960s to current day, Ive actually found a car that makes me smile when I drive and doesn't matter that its a Japanese company that happens to build this car in Thailand!Now maybe its an age thing that has mellowed my thinking out,but I believe its deeper than that. Alot of people consume items or purchase what they want, but how many actually purchase what they need?? I needed a car that was cheap to buy, cheap to run,fun to drive,easy to drive and park,I love not spending much money on fuel and also not looking like every other car on the road. I feel like a kid driving a gocart and it makes me happy! Thank you Mitsubishi motors!